23 Jul 2012

Lost Capitol Hill: Touring the Hill in 1902

In the late 19th century, tourism took off as a mass phenomenon. This meant a whole new market for guide books, which had existed for decades already, but usually more for people moving to a new location, and not for middle class tourists now thronging the great cities and important sights of the world.

In early 1902, the Sunday Washington Globe decided to get into this new market, and began publishing a weekly “Washington Directory,” which featured a detailed description of the layout of DC, descriptions of its parks, opening times of important buildings as well as “Historical and Show Places of the City.”

The last was simply a list of sights that one shouldn’t miss when visiting the nation’s capital. Which would be fine, except that it was more a cross between a guide and a crossword puzzle, with the visitor being required to know the “Livery where Booth hired horse” (either Howard’s Stables G between 6th & 7th Streets or Pumphrey’s, on C, near the National theater) or the “Church attended by President McKinley” (Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church on 4th & C Streets NW) or “U.S. Mail Bag Repair Shop” (479 & 481 C Street NW) or the “Steps from which Bryan delivered his only speech, last campaign, in Washington” (No idea whatsoever)

A fair number of these sights were, of course, on Capitol Hill. Over the next few weeks, I will run down those that I could decipher – and place on the Hill.

“House built by George Washington” Due north of the Capitol on North Capitol Street. Although technically two houses, they were used as one for much of the time. It was built in 1799, rebuilt in 1817, and torn down about a hundred years later. In 1902, it was being used as a hotel.

“Senate stables” Though these may have been an important sight at the time, there are very few references to this in the public record. A former page mentions them as having been “[j]ust a block below [the Capitol], almost in sight from the Senate steps.” Other records show them to have been in Square 683, at the corner of C Street and Delaware Ave NE, but even the most detailed maps of the time fail to mention this supposedly worthwhile sight.

Detail of the text. Note obvious misspelling. (LOC)

“Capitol Grounds” Although they will always play second fiddle to the Capitol itself, a tour of the grounds remains an important stop on any tourist’s itinerary today.

“Greenough’s statue of General Washington” The first monument to George Washington in DC was a statue carved by Horatio Greenough. Originally located inside the Capitol, it was removed after a year and placed on the Capitol grounds. From 1843 until 1908, this much-derided statue was due east of the Capitol, facing toward it.

“Congressional Librery [sic]” The structure today known as the Jefferson building opened on November 1, 1897 as the Library of Congress Building. It is on 1st Street SE, and remains one of the capital’s chief sights. The misspelling is, of course, particularly embarrassing given the nature of the sight.

Much more to come.

Tags: , , , ,

What's trending

Comments are closed.

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com
Add to Flipboard Magazine.